Japan 23/24

Sbooker

Active member
I’m extremely tempted to book a quick trip to Hokkaido from 14th of December. I’d fly back in on Christmas Eve.
The only thing making me doubtful is driving in snowy conditions in areas that don’t have signs in English without a navigator. Last time I found the rental car GPS system less than great.
If I do it I’ll book tomorrow. The plan will be to stay in Otaru or Kutchan for a few days then head to Furano for a few days while hitting up a ski hill on the transit day. I should be able to get 7 and a half ski days in.
The flights are pretty good compared to other northern hemisphere ski countries. One hour time difference.
 
The only thing making me doubtful is driving in snowy conditions in areas that don’t have signs in English without a navigator. Last time I found the rental car GPS system less than great.

I use my mobile phone and Google Maps or Waze for navigation. I even have a small phone mounting device in my electronic 'junk' bag of cords, chargers, headphones, etc. T-Mobile (my provider) has free data, so it's a no-brainer.

Drove a minor loop of Sapporo airport->Kiroro->Kutchan/Niseko->Rusutsu->Sapporo->Sapparo airport. It can be snowy, but the roads are relatively low and not too twisty. I thought Japan was relatively easy driving-wise.

Looks like snow is starting to accumulate in Japan:


 
I use my mobile phone and Google Maps or Waze for navigation. I even have a small phone mounting device in my electronic 'junk' bag of cords, chargers, headphones, etc. T-Mobile (my provider) has free data, so it's a no-brainer.

Drove a minor loop of Sapporo airport->Kiroro->Kutchan/Niseko->Rusutsu->Sapporo->Sapparo airport. It can be snowy, but the roads are relatively low and not too twisty. I thought Japan was relatively easy driving-wise.

Looks like snow is starting to accumulate in Japan:


I had some dramas with google maps.
I guess the worst that can happen is I’m late to click in by an hour…..
 
In 2016 we shared a van, drove Chitose airport > Furano > Tomamu > Niseko, some shopping and dinner trips while there. Google Maps was fine for navigation, and sbooker even drives on the same side of the road! Our friends had the van at the end of the trip while Liz and I were with guides at Rusutsu, Kiroro and Sapporo.

As for skiing in Hokkaido starting Dec. 14, I'm skeptical given the time and expense of the trip. Current reports of season to date snow fall 96cm at Niseko and 70cm at Furano means there's a long way to go. Those numbers are about average, and while Niseko averages 350cm in December, it's logical that more of that falls in the second half of the month. The conventional wisdom is that December's snowfall is needed to build a base and January is when you have confidence for both the powder and an adequate base underneath it. I would consider this trip only if both airfare and lodging are screaming bargains.
 
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In 2016 we shared a van, drove Chitose airport > Furano > Tomamu > Niseko, some shopping and dinner trips while there. Google Maps was fine for navigation, and sbooker even drives on the same side of the road! Our friends had the van at the end of the trip while Liz and I were with guides at Rusutsu, Kiroro and Sapporo.

As for skiing in Hokkaido starting Dec. 14, I'm skeptical given the time and expense of the trip. Current reports of season to date snow fall 96cm at Niseko and 70cm at Furano means there's along way to go. Those numbers are about average, and while Niseko averages 350cm in December, it's logical that more of that falls in the second half of the month. The conventional wisdom is that December's snowfall is needed to build a base and January is when you have confidence for both the powder and an adequate base underneath it. I would consider this trip only if both airfare and lodging are screaming bargains.
I'm hearing you about whether the conditions will be worth it. But I'm tipping this year will be much quieter at work than normal years which are pretty dead anyway just before Christmas. So I've got time to burn.
The flights aren't cheap. $1500aud return. The car hire will be about $600aud. It's pretty easy to get lodging in the towns for about $100aud per night. I'm pretty tight day to day and I'm not a spender on anything but travel so the blowing a few bucks going on a trip to the cold doesn't overly concern me.
I understand I may be only skiing groomers or fresh snow on groomers but at least it's something.
 
I've never read any reports of pre-Christmas skiing in Japan. I'm sure it's mostly locals. SnowJapan website has some info. At least the major areas open in early December the last couple of years that I checked. One issue is that areas which regularly get a lot of snow do not pay much attention to being manageable with just a little. I recall in 2003 at both Jay Peak and Fernie that neither area handled low tide/adverse conditions well.

Japan ski areas don't have the obvious steep topography like Snowbird/Palisades/Jackson that demand a robust snowpack. However there were more obstacles in early January 2016 in Niseko than in late January 2011. We had abundant powder on the 2016 trip but November/December 2015 had only 2/3 normal snowfall. Our trip was amazing but a mid-December trip in a year like that would not have been.

I'll hazard a guess that mid-December in Japan this year will be better than mid-December in Utah though. :smileyvault-stirthepot:
 
I skied the same time frame in 2019 which was a poor start and a poor season overall from memory. Conditions were not great to be honest. I got rained on at low elevations at Niseko and Kiroro was icy in places even though we caught it just after snow. I do have a very memorable day at Sapporo Teine though. Aside from a school group and an army group we were about the only people on the hill and we were skiing a fresh 6 or 8 inches of snow until last lift. That was our last ski day of that trip.
I'm hoping for a couple more 'hit' days this time because last time produced mainly 'miss' days. Still being on the hill is always enjoyable. I might even take the opportunity to try some new skis out.

I've got the flights page loaded and am ready to hit go but as a person who is inherently a planner and has never made an "oh f*ck it - just do it" decision I'm struggling. Feel a bit guilty about leaving my wife here working.........:)
 
I had some dramas with google maps.

I had some issues with Google Maps/Waze in Western Ireland. The apps kept routing me on slightly faster, nearly one-lane country roads with stone walls on both sides.

Eventually, I started using the 'less intelligent' Apple Maps or Yahoo Maps since they utilized the major highways.
 
I do not think Japan requires too much snow to be fun on-piste.

My 2020 year was a bit low tide. Snowed every day, but in the bottom 1/3 of the woods, you were skiing over the tips of Japanese Bamboo - incredibly forgiving, more like grass. Slopes were well-covered with a 150-250 cm upper base at Kiroro, Niseko, and Rusutsu.

Snowfall looks OK/promising.


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I skied the same time frame in 2019 which was a poor start
November/December Niseko snowfall was 120 inches in 2015 and 115 inches in 2019, very similar. I did not know sbooker had done this before, so he knows what he's getting into better than I do. I remember a little bit of that Japanese bamboo grass too. I remember a lot more of the similarly soft New Zealand tussocks in 1982 and 1997.
 
I skied Japan around Sbookerd’s early 2019/20 trip near February 1st, 2020. Snowed and snowed that week. I consider it a high snowfall area with few subsurface ‘stuff’ (rocks, stumps, roots) to get covered.

Japan was on par with heli/cat trips to Alaska, British Columbia, and Mont Blanc. (Somewhat cheaper than the former two as well).


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I ditched the Japan idea for next weekend. I shelved it because I figured it’s just too far to go for what could be marginal or poor conditions. Now snow is well and truly in the forecast for Hokkaido……

I’ve now booked flights to Canberra and will go do some hiking around the New South Wales ski hills. I’ll walk up Mt Kosciuszko and go check out Spencer’s Creek where the snow depth is read. I’ll also get fitted for some new ski boots.
 
I ditched the Japan idea for next weekend. I shelved it because I figured it’s just too far to go for what could be marginal or poor conditions. Now snow is well and truly in the forecast for Hokkaido……

It looks pretty dreadful. Today's Niseko cams - rain, no snow base, above freezing temps and skiers walking on grass to the lifts.

It's essentially like mid-season Australia. :LOL: :(

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It's essentially like mid-season Australia. :LOL: :(
Some mid seasons. Like the last one.

I’ve had some really great days on the Oz hills though. But yes - the lack of altitude and suboptimal latitude makes our ‘mountains’ better suited for walking in summer than skiing in winter.

Let’s look at the Niseko cams in 10 days. It’ll be a winter wonderland.
 
Some mid seasons. Like the last one.

I’ve had some really great days on the Oz hills though. But yes - the lack of altitude and suboptimal latitude makes our ‘mountains’ better suited for walking in summer than skiing in winter.

Let’s look at the Niseko cams in 10 days. It’ll be a winter wonderland.

Joking. Both Australia and NZ look interesting to me. I am more likely to choose NZ, but I have never been to Melbourne, Canberra, etc so Australia is not totally out of the question.Joking. Both Australia and New Zealand seem interesting, but I am more likely to choose NZ. However, I have never been to Melbourne, Canberra, etc., so Australia is not completely out of the question.
 
My son and girlfriend flew to Tokyo/Narita non-stop from SJC, our local airport on ZipAir which is Japan Airlines low-cost carrier. I was surprised to see they have round-trips as low as $688.58. But skis cost $73 to get there and 8,000 yen return and the cheap flight only includes 7 Kg carryon. You can raise carryon to 15Kg for $38/5,000 yen and a 30 Kg checked bag is $54/7,000 yen. There are also charges for seat assignment and meals that include checked bag.

Not like I'm planning to go that far anytime soon, but surprised to see someone flying 787s SJC-Tokyo. The rest of his trip includes Thailand and Vietnam, returning early on Christmas morning. He was in Vietnam last year from just after Christmas through New Years with friends, some of whom where Vietnamese. He now has Vietnamese girlfriend that he went to 5th and 6th grade with at school down the street from our house. He is traveling in Vietnam with her family that includes parents and two sisters with husbands and children who all live near us.
 
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